“Dude, this was, like, two years ago.” Thus spake former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor on Thursday after Fox News Channel anchorman Bret Baier asked him whether he had been involved in changing talking points to prepare then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for Sunday talk shows in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi, Libya, attacks that left four Americans dead. Vietor explained that he should not be expected to remember something as “mundane” as “the process of editing talking points.”
It would be easier to believe Vietor if the Obama White House had not withheld 41 State Department documents on the White House response to the attack when it handed over more than 25,000 pages of documents to Congress. It took a subpoena by the gadfly watchdog group Judicial Watch to win release of those documents. One particularly damning memo, written Sept. 16, 2012, by White House adviser Ben Rhodes, suggested that Rice “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” At the time, intelligence officials knew that a video hadn’t sparked the attack.
White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed last week that the administration wasn’t stonewalling; it didn’t have to hand over the Rhodes memo, he told reporters, because it was about “protests around the Muslim world,” not Benghazi.
Poor House Speaker John Boehner. Judicial Watch’s new trophy left him with little choice but to announce a new select committee on Benghazi, ostensibly to answer this question: “What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?”
I don’t think the new committee will unearth much more than what the public already should infer: The administration unsuccessfully tried to shift the blame from al-Qaida-inspired terrorists to an American-made video. In a different time, with a different party, that gambit could have had consequences. After Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar hinted that Basque terrorists were behind the 2004 Madrid train bombing, which left more than 190 dead, his party tanked in the next election.
No wonder Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the hearing a waste of time on “Fox News Sunday” and suggested that Democrats boycott the select committee.
Personally, I am not keen on more hearings. By Politico’s count, more than 13 congressional hearings have been held on Benghazi. By my count, they’ve yielded too many hours of long-winded, self-serving rhetorical questions and very few answers.
Most famously, the Benghazi hearings produced Hillary Clinton’s infamous answer that concluded with a rhetorical question: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
That May 2013 exchange said it all: Neither Barack Obama nor his secretary of state particularly cared to find out what happened to Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. They just want the whole story to go away. It was two years ago, dude.
Email Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.